“Mom, I’m ready to checkout.”
“Huh?” I was engrossed in the August issue of Spin.
“Come on, Mom. Let’s go!”
We bypassed self-checkout and waited in line at the front desk. A strategic move on my part to garner a few more minutes.
“Do I have to give it back?”
The librarian shrugged. There’s always next week.
But the next week it was missing. The week after that too. Quite sure someone pilfered it. Slipped it into a briefcase or trench coat. Snuck it by the sensors.
I inquired at the front desk. They have no way of tracking periodicals. Oh, well. Nevermind.
Then this week, it miraculously reappeared in its rightful place between Southwest Art and The Sporting News. I snagged it and held it close. Snapped iPhone photos on silent mode so my clicking would go undetected.
August 2011. Spin. Special Issue. The 20th Anniversary of the Album That Changed Everything. What Nevermind Means Now.
There on the cover was poor Kurt Cobain in cutoff jeans and no shirt. Suspended underwater. Scruffy beard. Floating mane. Devoid of air.
“Most drummers write beats,” said Thursday’s vocalist Geoff Rickly in Spin. “Dave Grohl wrote riffs.”
“Nevermind was the first entire album of my generation that didn’t feel like it was on loan from the generation just before us,” said Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake.
“Even on the first listen, the song (Smells Like Teen Spirit) carried with it a strange nostalgia,” said Meghan O’Rourke, author of The Long Goodbye. “What made Nevermind iconic had a lot to do with Cobain’s own self-consciousness.”
Musician Jack Davey explained it logically as teenagers rebelling against his laundry list of oppressions from the 80s.
In an article by Ed Masley from The Arizona Republic online, managing editor of MTV Hive Jessica Robertson attributed it to obliteration of the nuclear family. Kids being isolated without ways to connect.
“Nirvana came on their TV and there was this anthem for them. This entire movement was spawned in that one moment, because suddenly people had a home and a community,” said Robertson.
So what does Nevermind mean to you, if anything?
I was 20 years old and in college when the album was released on September 24, 1991. Rumor was a boy named Knox (what a cool name) introduced Nevermind to the frat house where my sorority sisters and I congregated. I’d never heard anything like it.
One morning after class, I meandered through frat court on my way back to my sorority house. It was autumn in Chapel Hill—sunny, quiet, magical.
Then as if on cue, Smells Like Teen Spirit blasted out from said frat house, filling the space and time.
Nevermind is a contradiction. An angry, painful, determined, come-close-as-I-push-you-away, I-have-a-chip-on-my shoulder-yeah-you-put-it-there, let’s-celebrate-for-tomorrow-we-die rallying cry.
I was born in 1970. Smack dab in the epicenter of Gen X. The 13th generation as theorized by Neil Howe and Bill Strauss. The unlucky. The unwanted. The Johnny-come-lately middle child after the Baby Boomers but before the Millennials. For many of us, life is a contradiction.
“Fortunately, Gen Xers are not starry-eyed idealists, but rather steely-eyed realists,” writes Lisa Chamberlain in her book Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction.
Early April, 1994. The news came on my car radio. I pulled to a stop at the top of a highway off-ramp in the middle of the night. Cobain had suicided.
“So that’s it?” I thought. “That’s how this ends?”
“I think it (Nevermind) has a lasting impact still of excitement and mystery,” said Meat Puppet’s Curt Kirkwood in The Arizona Republic article. “For something so accessible, it’s almost impenetrable.”
And that’s how it remains.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:19-23 NIV